Miller, William (1755-1846) (DNB00)

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MILLER, Sir WILLIAM, Lord Glenlee (1755–1846), Scottish judge, born on 12 Aug. 1755, was only son of Sir Thomas Miller [q. v.], lord president of the College of Justice, by his first wife Margaret, eldest daughter of John Murdoch of Rose Bank, provost of Glasgow. Educated at the high school of Edinburgh, he was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates on 9 Aug. 1777, and was subsequently appointed principal clerk in the high court of justiciary. At the general election in September 1780 he was returned to the House of Commons for the city of Edinburgh, after a keen contest with Sir Laurence Dundas, but was unseated on petition in the following March (Journals of the House of Commons, xxxviii. 315, 316). The only occasion on which he appears to have spoken in the house was on Fox's motion condemning the appointment of Sir Hugh Palliser [q. v.] to Greenwich Hospital (Parl. Hist. xxi. 1128–30). On the death of his father in September 1789, he succeeded to the baronetcy. He was appointed a lord of session in the place of Alexander Murray, lord Henderland [q. v.], and took his seat on the bench with the title of Lord Glenlee on 23 May 1795. After nearly forty-five years of judicial work he resigned his post in January 1840 (Cockburn, Journal, i. 251), and died at Barskimming, Ayrshire, on 9 May 1846, aged 90. He was buried in the family vault at Stair, Ayrshire. Miller was a very able man, and had a profound knowledge of jurisprudence, mathematics, and literature. His conversation is said to have been ‘full of thought and curious original views.’ His appearance was striking: ‘the figure was slender; the countenance pale, but with a full dark eye; the features regular, unless when disturbed, as his whole frame often was, by little jerks and gesticulations, as if he was under frequent galvanism; his air and manner polite’ (Cockburn, Life of Lord Jeffrey, i. 123–4). Miller was the last Scottish judge who appeared in his wig in the streets, his practice being, before he got so feeble as to require a sedan-chair, ‘to walk to court in his wig and long cravat, his silk stockings, and silver buckles, and his cocked hat in his hand’ (Cockburn, Journal, i. 251). Guthrie has left a graphic description of the delivery of Miller's judgment in the Auchterarder case (Autobiog. of Thomas Guthrie, 1877, pp. 349–50), and an amusing account of a sharp passage of arms between Miller and John Clerk (afterwards lord Eldin) [q. v.] will be found in ‘Cockburn's Journal’ (ii. 207–10).

Miller married, on 5 Nov. 1778, his cousin Grizel, the daughter of George Chalmers, a large grain merchant in Edinburgh, by whom he had six sons and three daughters. His wife died in Edinburgh on 15 Feb. 1817. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his grandson, William Miller, the grandfather of the fifth baronet. There is a portrait of Miller in the Parliament House at Edinburgh (Paul, Handbook to the Parliament House, 1884, pp. 49–50), and three etchings of him by Kay will be found in the second volume of ‘Original Portraits’ (Nos. 285, 300, 312). A full-length portrait of Miller, by Sir Henry Raeburn, was engraved by W. Walker in 1838. His library was sold by auction at Edinburgh on 18 Jan. 1853, and the eleven following days.

His second son, William Miller (d. 1815), a lieutenant-colonel of the 1st foot-guards, was mortally wounded at Quatre Bras on 16 June 1815, and died the following day at Brussels, where a monument was erected in the cemetery to his memory. Sir Walter Scott, in his ‘Field of Waterloo,’ refers to the ‘gallant Miller's failing eye, still bent where Albion's banners fly’ (Poetical Works, 1848, p. 505 and note).

[Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, 1877, i. 42, 119, 243, ii. 158, 346–8, 380, 417; Cockburn's Life of Lord Jeffrey, 1852, i. 121–4; Journal of Henry Cockburn, 1874, i. 77, 251–2, ii. 207–10, 267; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, 1832, p. 542; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1863, iii. 157–8; Gent. Mag. 1846 pt. i. p. 643; Annual Register, 1846, App. to Chron. p. 254; Burke's Peerage, &c. 1890, p. 958; Foster's Members of Parliament, Scotland, 1882, p. 251; Scots Mag. xl. 469, lxxix. 239.]

G. F. R. B.